Hunger Strike

Album: Temple of the Dog (1990)
Charted: 51


  • Temple of the Dog began when Chris Cornell of Soundgarden wrote two songs in honor of his good friend Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose in March 1990. Wood was kept on life support for three days after he overdosed, during which time Cornell and his band mates came to see him. Wood was in a promising Seattle band called Mother Love Bone with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, who were forming their new band that would become Pearl Jam. Cornell teamed up with them and guitarist Mike McCready with the intention of recording some of Wood's solo songs along with Cornell's two tribute tracks. Responding to concerns that they were somehow exploiting Wood's work, the guys decided to release an album of all original material in tribute to Wood, and called the band Temple of the Dog after a Mother Love Bone lyric from their song "Man of Golden Words."

    "Hunger Strike" was the last song recorded for the album; Chris Cornell wrote it because they had only nine tracks and he has a compulsive distaste for odd numbers. Describing the song in the Pearl Jam Twenty collection, he said, "I was wanting to express the gratitude for my life but also disdain for people where that's not enough, where they want more. There's no way to really have a whole lot more than you need usually without taking from somebody else that can't really afford to give it to you. It's sort of about taking advantage of a person or people who really don't have anything."
  • The same verse is repeated twice in this song, as Cornell felt he had said everything he could on the subject with those words. Once these verse lyrics are out of the way, it's all chorus and bridge, which works thanks to the second vocalist on the song: Eddie Vedder.

    Temple of the Dog recorded the song on the very day Vedder flew in from San Diego to meet with his new bandmates in what would become Pearl Jam: October 8, 1990. It was the first time he met any of the guys, and for most of the sessions, he kept to himself (Vedder was chosen based on a tape he sent to the guys where he added vocals to some of their tracks). Chris Cornell planned to sing both the high and low parts of the "Going Hungry" chorus by himself with the help of overdubs, but he was struggling with the low register. In a defining moment, Vedder stepped up to the microphone and sang the low parts of the chorus, which made the song click for Cornell.

    With two distinct voices, Cornell could now sing the verse lyrics at the beginning of the song, and Vedder could follow with the same lyrics, giving it a different sound. With both voices on the chorus, the song really came together and became the highlight of the album. It was a huge moment for Eddie, as he interjected himself into Cornell's song without coming off as arrogant, and gained the respect of his new bandmates in the process. It was Vedder's first recorded vocal for a major record, and it proved to those in the room that he understood their sound and was willing to contribute any way he could, even if it wasn't for his band.
  • The video for the song was shot in Discovery Park in Seattle. The western view at sunset with band members' backs to the camera facing Bainbridge Island, home of Andrew Wood, was a symbolic goodbye to their friend.

    The clip was directed by Paul Rachman, who did the Alice in Chains video for "Man In The Box" and later made the documentary American Hardcore. Chris Cornell had done plenty of music videos and knew how to sell his performance, but Eddie Vedder had never appeared in a video and was uncomfortable lip-synching, so Rachman coached him to find a spot in the distance to look at while he sang. Vedder pulled this one off, but spent the rest of his career dodging any lip-synch scenarios.

    As for Cornell, he's the one who chose the location. In a 2017 interview with Paul Rachman, the director told Songfacts: "It was truly inspiring to collaborate with him on the creative, and then when we went out to shoot, as you can tell in the video, he was a pro. I told him, 'Use your guitar and go stand here. I'm going to shoot from the back of you and just look out towards this great vista.' It's not the most comfortable thing to do, to kind of fake it with a guitar as a rock star out on a sand dune, and he just nailed it every time. He really was able to let the music transcend his actions in those moments, and in the playback he becomes Chris Cornell. In all those shots, he's giving it, he's putting out. It was amazing footage to work with.

    The Pearl Jam guys were in there, too, but you could tell in the video that they were less experienced at music videos and in terms of being big rock stars. Chris was solid. He was really great, too. He was kind, he was collaborative. He was a pleasure to collaborate with."
  • Matt Cameron, who was with Soundgarden at the time, was the drummer for Temple of the Dog. He ended up joining Peal Jam a few years later.
  • Cornell has joined Pearl Jam on several occasions onstage to perform this song.
  • This was the first single from the album and by far the most famous song by Temple of the Dog. The follow-up single, "Say Hello 2 Heaven," is a song Chris Cornell wrote for Andrew Wood.
  • Temple of the Dog got back together for a tour in 2016. Around this time, Chris Cornell told Rolling Stone: "'Hunger Strike' and 'Wooden Jesus' were ideas that might have been a few months old, but I had never really finished writing or fully realized them. They didn't feel like Soundgarden, so I didn't really pursue them. But 'Hunger Strike' came about because of an existential crisis that Soundgarden faced at that moment. We were sort of the first band [from Seattle] that had attention from labels in a meaningful way. There was a bidding war, which was unusual for any band from Seattle. We were living our dream, but there was also this mistrust over what that meant. Does this make us a commercial rock band? Does it change our motivation when we're writing a song and making a record? 'Hunger Strike' is a statement that I'm staying true to what I'm doing regardless of what comes of it, but I will never change what I'm doing for the purposes of success or money."
  • The Soundgarden guys in Temple of the Dog, Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron, had little interest in appearing in the video, but the Pearl Jam guys wanted the exposure since their band had recently formed.
  • When Chris Cornell toured with Linkin Park on the Projekt Revolution festival in 2008, Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington would join Cornell to perform this song, and Cornell would return the favor by singing on Crawling during Linkin Park's set. Cornell and Bennington were very close, and when Cornell committed suicide by hanging in 2017, Bennington did the same two months later.

Comments: 38

  • Darryll from AnaheimI think Tommy from Queens is spot on with that analysis. With all the things he was working on and the scandal that is coming to light I could not get the, “farming babies,” lyric out of my head and now I know it is what is going on here.
  • Tommy From Queens from Queens & LiThe video is nondescript but the lyrics undoubtedly speak of "blood on the table, fires burning, slaves working," and the singer (writer Chris Cornell's) inability to partake in EATING THE INNOCENT & POWERLESS. This is not about the seattle grunge scene. In the 90s there was nothing close to pizzagate or any relevant equivalent, nobody was listening, nobody was looking.... he put it out there pretty clearly. FARMING BABIES, BLOOD ON THE TABLE, BUT HE CANT DO IT, SO HE GOES HUNGRY. Everyone around him was involved in pedophilia. He himself was abused. Look at who surrounded him. In laws, etc. He tried to warn us. He was sacrificed.
  • Trudy from YeppoonMike Nitti - I think you are spot on with your analysis. This is all coming to light more and more now. There's a great doco by Janet Ossebaard called "Fall of the Cabal" on youtube. She exposes all of what you mention regarding the elite and how they "suicide" anyone who threatens to expose them. It's so sad - Chris was an absolute hero.
  • Mike Nitti from MichiganI believe this song is a protest to the elite, their use of adrenochrome, human trafficking and the enslavement of the masses. He speaks of babies being farmed, blood on the table, and no longer wanting to feed on the powerless. Also, Chris Cornell later “Committed Suicide” while working on a documentary about child sex trafficking called THE SILENT CHILDREN. He just happened to be working on that documentary with Chester Bennington of Lincoln Park who also happened to “commit Suicide”. Quite the coincidence if you ask me.
  • Keiv from UsaFact: Chris Cornell sings the first verse and Eddie Vedder sings the second verse. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, stupid, or deaf.

    Fact: Eddie Vedder also sang backing vocals on Pushin' Forward Back, Your Saviour, and Four Walled World. During live performances he has also sung backing vocals on Say Hello 2 Heaven and Reach Down.
  • Kev from Sf,caChris tells you what the song means in quote above. It's about the Seattle music scene at the time. They want to be successful w/o taking more than their fair share from other bands in Seattle at that time. Fairly simple.
  • Damon Mcneal from OhioFirst off Chris Cornell is singing the first part then goes Eddie Vedder, and they kinda sounds similar but you can definitely tell who is who! The song was a political statement towards the rich , but also dedicated to the late Andrew wood who stood for the child starvation an world hunger!!!
  • Cam from Halcottsville, Nyinterpret the music in anyway you want thats the greatness about music it can mean whatever you want it to as long as you enjoy it...personally i think its about the loss of andrew wood or just the loss of a freind in general.. either way its a great song and no one can deny that
  • Claude from Kingston, MaEddie and Chris's voices are nothing alike. Anyone who can't tell that it's Cornell singing the first verse and Eddie singing the second should not listen to music anymore at all. It's wasted on you. Eddie's voice is much deeper and richer than Cornell's.
  • Brigette from Melbourne, Australiacornell and vedders voice sound very much alike in this song, but if u watch the clip, its cornell at the start, then vedder and then they both sing in the chorus: vedder-"im goin hungry" cornell-"im going hungry..yeeaaaaahhhh!! lol
  • Becky from Box Springs, Gafor those of you who are argue who sings the video....
  • Jacob from Rocky Mount, Nceddie vedder sings ALL lines in this song except Chris Corneal sings a little background vocals on the "I'm growing hungry-yeaaaaa' line. Plus I think this song is about all abuse and slavery
  • Nick from Westwood, NjHa. Some of you think this song is about an actual hunger strike. Pull your heads out of you arse's and really think about it. This song is about social inequality and how the "higher" man will steal from the "middle" and "lower" men.
  • Andy from Nottingham, United KingdomScott and Leigh from Canada... you talk out of your arse. So a band formed in 1990 were commenting on a issue in 1980?

    the song is about poverty you f**kwits. Read wikipedia...."The narrator, witnessing injustice in food distribution, both steals bread to give to the poor and protests in solidarity with them via a hunger strike."

    No real synergy between some mad republican murderers and third world starvation there then?
  • Jason from Hartville, OhHere are the facts: TOTD is all of the current members of Pearl Jam (as of 2007) with Chris Cornell. that includes Vedder, Cornell, McCready, Ament, Gossard, and Cameron (formerly of Soundgarden). Vedder sang in songs other than just Hunger Strike, but only in backup vocals which are nearly unnoticeable.

    If you really want to feel moved, listen to the Mother Love Bone album, then immediately after listen to "Say Hello 2 Heaven." It is laced with Andrew Wood references and was written as a tribute to him...It is in the top 2 most tragically beautiful songs I've ever heard (the other is Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton)
  • Leigh from St . John's, CanadaScott- I agree with you. The first time I heard 'Hunger Strike', the Irish Hunger Strikers and their plight came to mind. I was 24 when this was happening, but when I heard that hauntingly beautiful song with its amazing vocals and powerful lyrics it was 1980-1981 again and the world was waiting for Thatchers next move.

    Leigh . Canada
  • Joycemorrison from Phboy, tis only Eddie's voice i recognized here. the delivery of the strong vocals -- making the song more affecting... to me.
  • Talha from Lahore, Pakistanthis song marks a tragedy reagarding the "contemporary punk rock era" - a major blow when the alternative scene was slowly but surely flourishing,i think all the song says is: a person does what has 2 do in order 2 survive,and when they're gone......they ALWAYS in 1 way or another leave something behind...on a subliminal level it tells u 2 carry on............
  • Dom from Revere, Machris sings on the first verse of the song and eddie sings the second in hungerstrike right?
  • Richard from Norman Park, , GaI think the lyrics and the vocal power presented by Cornell is nothing short of amazing. Not to take anything from the incredible Eddie Vedder. If you think anything in this song or any other TOTD song, well, you must really be looking for another brand or style of music to please because these vocal acrobatics stand the fine hairs on the back of my neck to attention!!!!!!!1
  • Ringgo from Montclair, CaPossibly the best duet in alternative rock history..and also, Vedder did do backing vocals on "Pushing Forward Back" on the album. Their last performance together as this TOTD outfit was in 2003 in Santa Barbara, California when Pearl Jam was doing a benefit show there and Cornell showed up too. he did one solo song of his and one Audioslave song, both acoustic, before joining PJ and singing this song and "Reach Down" as the full fledged Temple of the Dog outfit. Awesome stuff.
  • Jonathon from Clermont, FlHow can you say Cornell's voice is irritating in "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and mean it? There's almost nobody in the world who could sing that song with the range and emotion he managed to pull off. The entire album is pretty much a showcase of his awesome vocal skills, with the exception of "Hunger Strike". This song was a platform for Eddie Vedder and his recently discovered talents...
  • Brandon from Saskatoon, Canadaya pretty sweet song. say hello to heaven is good too, but cornell's singing can get a little irritating in it but ya soundgarden is awesome
  • Jonathon from Clermont, FlI always get the best comments in on songs I care about.
  • Z from Seattle, WaActually, Vedder sings the lyrics on most of the song, first and second verses and cornell just does the screaming in the background during the choruses and the breakdown at the end
  • Ed from Melbourne, AustraliaEddie Vedder and Chris Cornell are the two greatest rock singers of all time.In the Mother Love Bone song- Man of Gold words Andrew wood says Wanna show somehting like a joy inside my heart, seems ive been livin' in the temple of the dog. That's where they get they're name from
  • Kammie from London, Englandif you've seen the video, it appears that eddie vedder sings the 2nd verse (a repeat of what chris sings in the beginning) and then the "i'm going hungry" lines. also, mike mccready is seen playing guitar on this song.
  • E from Vancouver, CanadaI love this song, but the vocals on 'Say Hello 2 Heaven' may be the best vocals in any rock song ever.
  • Stephen from Jonesboro, Arthe song is premised on the whole grunge idea of not just trying to make money. the 80's rock scene was dominated by decadence and over indulgence. this song was showing a break from that tradition. i dont think it was speaking about one particular incedent, but more of a statement about society as a whole and how the rich are willing to take from the poor. they were saying that they were willing to take from the rich (mouths of decadence), but not from the poor (powerless) sence the were doing well enough. we have to remeber that at this time none of these guys were rich, but they were doing well enough that they didnt have to take from the powerless.
  • Dan from Special TowneChris Cornell sings the first verse, then Vedder sings the same-ish thing over again.Then vedder sings "I'm going hungry" with cornell screaming it in the background.
  • Nick from Arlington Heights, IlJorge-
    Andrew Wood died 3/19/90 of a drug overdose.
  • Joe from Stoughton, MaI always thought it was about being a vegatarian from the line "I can't feed on the powerless when my cups already overfilled" I think the powerless is the animals, and Cornell is talking about how as an american he can afford to not eat meat. Oh well, more cow for me. R.I.P. Andrew Wood.
  • Scott from Vancouver, CanadaI think this song could represent one of several historical hunger strikes. For example, the 1981 Catholic Prisoners in Northern Ireland. Protestants had complete civil rights while free Cathoics had restricted privileges and were not allowed government jobs. Imprisoned Catholics could not wear civilian clothes, associate with other prisoners, and were forced into labour chain gangs. The prison hunger strike of 1981 sparked a tremendous rally around Irish Republicans, providing power to the IRA and the Sinn Fein party, both of whom stood for civil equity for the Catholics.
  • Chris from Wellington, New ZealandMike actually was in it. Much like Eddie being involved in temple, Mike was just someone that Chris knew. Eddie does backing vocals for 3 other temple songs. Theres no real meaning behind the song. Just empathy more than anything. Talking about poverty in the world yet they have plenty of money and being able to drink water and eat when ever they want so they go on a hunger strike.
  • The Jorge from Hell, Otherdoes anyone know when andrew wood died?
  • The Jorge from Hell, OtherHow bout the meaning of the song?
  • Kurt from Downers Grove, IlActually, this is the only TOTD song Eddie is on.
  • Brian from Paoli, InThis song is awesome, Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell in the same song together is just un-real. Basically TOTD is Pearl Jam minus Mike and plus Cornell.
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